Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

Doctor Robert Knox
Audio - Medicinal Purposes
Medicinal Purposes
(Robert Ross)
 Name: Unknown; adopted the alias of Doctor Robert Knox (it would appear that he stole this name from the original, but it was never confirmed what happened to the true Knox, particularly when these events occurred in a pocket universe ‘Knox’ had created); has also called himself Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle at a point before those men became famous, but appears to accept ‘Knox’ as his name from those aware of his true nature.

 Format: Audio

 Time of Origin: Originally from the far future, but encountered The Doctor on Earth in Edinburgh 1827 and Washington DC 1865.

 Appearances: "Medicinal Purposes" and "Assassin in the Limelight"

 Doctors: Sixth Doctor

 Companions: Evelyn Smythe

 History: While unquestionably a dangerous foe for The Doctor, the man who calls himself Doctor Robert Knox is particularly dangerous because he doesn’t recognise his own limitations. Not only did he have various flawed ideas about how time-travel worked that he mainly favoured because these views allowed him to justify his abuse of the Web of Time, but he ultimately proved to be a very self-centred individual. While he likely originated from the future, Knox went so far as to put history at risk by introducing dangerous alien life-forms to Earth because it was the only way he could guarantee his own survival after his plans backfired on him.

 His exact background is unknown, but it has been established that Knox had some history as a time traveller before he encountered The Doctor, as he acquired a Type 70 TARDIS from a Nekkistani dealer on Gryben, a planet with a notorious black market for various time-travel technology. Its working chameleon circuit initially allowed Knox to disguise it as his house in Edinburgh - most likely configuring the internal architecture so that nobody entering it would find themselves in the console room at first - but he later adapted it so that it would take on the outward appearance of the Chinese conjuror Chung Ling Soo's magic box, 'down to the last bullet-hole', while it was in his dressing room in a theatre in 1865, as well as posing as a thorny bush on a brief trip to a park. When configured so that the door opened directly onto the control room, it featured a metal lift that could take the user straight to a sick bay on floor Gamma Seven. The ship was so advanced that Knox was able to operate it via voice control, The Doctor actually having trouble with such an advanced model despite being a Time Lord himself.

 Knox first met the Sixth Doctor when he was contracted to give humans an alien flu virus to help cure an alien race of the same infection. As the aliens’ immune systems were remarkably similar to those of humans, the man who would adopt the alias of Robert Knox travelled back in time to Edinburgh, infecting the local residents with the virus to see how their immune systems coped with the plague. Identifying those who would die of either natural causes or would be killed by Burke and Hare as suitable targets for his experiments, Knox ensured that they would be infected with the virus and then analysed their bodies himself to determine how to treat it. To give himself time to carry out his research, Knox was able to place several months in 1828 in a time bubble so he could charge alien businessmen to watch the suffering of the humans in that period while carrying out his research. However, Knox soon determined that the virus wasn’t actually infecting anyone in this time as the amount of alcohol they drank somehow made it impossible for the virus to infect them. While officially continuing his research into the virus, he decided to ‘content’ himself by offering others the opportunity to take part in the ‘Burke and Hare experience’, replaying the same few months of history with various changes, such as once taking Hare out of the equation so that Knox could join Burke himself.

 When The Doctor and Evelyn Smythe arrived and Evelyn went to confront Knox to find out what he knew about the apparently-missing Hare, Knox ‘tested’ Evelyn by suggesting that he was The Doctor Jekyll to The Doctor’s Mr Hyde, an analogy that no native of the time would have understood as Robert Louis Stevenson hadn’t even been born yet. Now certain that Knox was a time traveller, The Doctor confronted him about his actions, but while Knox explained his ‘humanitarian mission’, he initially avoided admitting that he hadn’t been able to find a cure. Knox claimed that Time was more robust than The Doctor believed and history would be unaffected by his actions, but The Doctor knew for a fact that the Web of Time couldn’t take the strain that Knox was subjecting it to and would eventually suffer serious damage if Knox wasn’t stopped.

 Having learned from Knox that the flu virus couldn’t affect most residents of 1828 due to the high amount of alcohol in their systems killing the infection, The Doctor took a chance by bringing street entertainer Daft Jamie (whose insanity had already rendered him immune to Knox’s temporal manipulations so that he could recall the loops) into the TARDIS and travelling forward in time by a few months to the moment when Burke was hanged, a time period that was definitively outside Knox’s time bubble. Since Daft Jamie didn’t drink, he was susceptible to the virus, and when he enthusiastically shook Knox’s hand - mistakenly assuming that the crowds were chanting his name outside because he was famous rather than because he’d been one of Burke’s victims - Knox was also infected with the virus. Unable to undo this action as he was outside his bubble, Knox was forced to leave Edinburgh to try and seriously find a cure, leaving The Doctor and Evelyn to sadly take Jamie back to the moment of his recorded death and depart to let history unfold as it should.

Audio - Assassin in the Limelight
Assassin in the Limelight
(Robert Ross)
 Having failed to find a cure for the virus, Knox ended up doing a deal with an Indo- a race of microscopic organisms - he met on Mercury to prolong his life, the Indo keeping Knox “alive” even after the virus had physically killed him. Knox used a concoction of lavender and bergamot to cover the scent of his decaying body. Posing as Oscar Wilde in 1865 Washington DC, Knox made a living ‘plagiarising’ future plays as his own work before they had been officially written. However, his efforts reached a new height when he tried to kill John Wilkes Booth to prevent Booth killing Abraham Lincoln, claiming that he would use the opportunity to act as Lincoln’s post-war publicist - most likely by providing Lincoln with material from future famous speeches - although he suggested that his other goal was to save Clara Harris, a witness to the assassination whose life was destroyed by the trauma.

 Despite her disgust at Knox’s actions, Evelyn was tempted to take action to save Clara, but The Doctor refused to accept the idea of meddling with history just because Knox started tampering first, hoping that he could use the time between Booth’s death and the assassination to find some compromise that would let history play out as it should despite Booth’s ‘absence’. As various parties attempted to make plans to ensure Lincoln’s death for their own reasons - including a Confederate policeman planning to kill Lincoln in disguise and then ‘kill’ Booth while he escaped so that he could ensure his own reputation - The Doctor realised that Eckert, a former major in the Union army, was possessed by another Indo. Even worse, this Indo had become caught up in Eckert’s determination to avert sedition in America so that he was fixated on the idea of The Doctor supporting Lincoln’s assassination on minimal evidence. The Doctor eventually worked out what had happened to Knox, deducing that he had initially promised the Indo the chance to possess Booth in exchange for its help saving his life from the virus, but had been caught unprepared for other Indo to be present on Earth. As Knox finally revealed the Indo’s role in his survival, the Indo in Eckert confirmed its own identity, but the Indo-Eckert was knocked out and trapped before it could kill Evelyn, although another Indo apparently animated Booth while the Indo in Eckert retreated into Clara, who was actually Eckhert’s lover.

 Knox explained that he had attempted to stop the Indo by poisoning Booth with cyanide and a dash of iron to trap the Indo in Booth’s body, but the other Indo had ‘nudged’ Booth to swap drinks with Knox without his knowledge. While the cyanide couldn’t kill Knox as he was technically already dead, the iron extract severed Knox’s link with his own captive and allowed it to escape, leaving Knox to die while the Indo-in-Booth faked Booth’s death to keep The Doctor distracted. Having moved hosts, the Indo now intended to ‘sacrifice’ Clara to save Lincoln and provoke further conflict in a new civil war, but The Doctor offered to give the Indo access to his body and Knox’s TARDIS (which Knox had bequeathed to The Doctor before his death) to cause chaos throughout the universe if they abandoned their current plan and left Earth alone. Leaving Evelyn behind to ensure that history played out as it should now that they knew Booth was alive, The Doctor returned to Knox’s TARDIS, where he tricked the Indo into leaving his body so that he could release the other Indo, convincing the entity that the density of iron needed to trap Knox’s original Indo would draw the Indo currently in The Doctor out of his body once he was close enough to the cage but he would release it on his own if it kept up their current deal. Now free of the Indo, The Doctor trapped it in the lift of Knox’s TARDIS, the lift’s iron walls keeping the creature contained and The Doctor ordering the ship to never open those doors again.

 As The Doctor prepared to return, a recording of Knox revealed that, as a final act of revenge, he had programmed the TARDIS to revert to default settings so that the Indo and The Doctor would be trapped in it while the TARDIS returned to the iron crater where he had found the Indo. Fortunately, while the controls themselves were locked so that The Doctor couldn’t use them, he was able to reconfigure the TARDIS’s galactic positioning system so that it would read Earth as Mercury and return there accordingly, with The Doctor then sending Knox’s TARDIS on a random trip in the Time Vortex with no set destination (Although it was suggested that it took him a long time to program Knox’s TARDIS in that manner, even if he made it back to Evelyn after mere moments from her perspective). When The Doctor discovered that the body of a dead stagehand had vanished from the locked box it had been sealed in, the lock broken from the inside, he speculated that Knox had spent so much time with the Indo that he had ‘absorbed’ its ability to animate dead bodies, allowing Knox’s essence to take the stagehand as a new body after his death. What appeared to be Knox was witnessed departing from Washington in a train under the alias of Arthur Conan Doyle, but The Doctor concluded that Knox was less of a concern now that he had lost his TARDIS and most of his previous resources. Although Knox’s ambition and ego suggest that he and The Doctor shall face each other again at some point, to date Knox has remained under the radar with no sign that he has faced The Doctor again.
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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